British Columbia

B.C. giving $25M back to school districts

The B.C. government has redirected $25 million in administrative savings back to school districts for investment in front-line students services.

Schools argue they're paying for millions of dollars in unfunded administration and technology costs

B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier announced $25 million in funding redirected from administrative savings. (CBC News)

The B.C. government is redirecting $25 million in administrative savings back to school districts. The government says the money can be spent by the districts however they see fit — including for schools buses, hiring teachers or potentially saving schools that were pegged for closure. 

"We want to make sure that every dollar possible flows into classrooms," said Education Minister Mike Bernier.

School districts were asked last year to find administrative savings. Many boards across the province are facing budget shortfalls and those economic struggles have led to some districts deciding to close schools.

For now, this is a one-time cash injection into all 60 school districts across the province. The B.C. School Trustees Association applauded the decision, but president Theresa Rezansoff has asked the province to make the funding an annual commitment.  

"The cost pressures felt by school districts are on-going and we need to work out a way to address them on a long term basis," said Rezansoff. "We look forward to the further discussions [between] the Minister of Education and Finance and local MLAs towards our goal of maintaining one of the world's and Canada's best education systems."

Millions of dollars in cuts

The B.C. Teachers' Federation said today's announcement shows the government is feeling the public pressure to restore education funding that has been cut. 

"Public advocacy clearly works," said BCTF President Jim Iker. "The return of this $25 million cut is an important turning point for public education as it shows the government is feeling the pressure one year out from a provincial election. While the returned funding will not solve the funding crisis facing our schools, it will bring some much needed relief. Parents, students, teachers, and trustees need to keep the pressure up."

Iker said the result of cutting 'administrative savings' at the school district level has led to more school closures, fewer education assistants, cuts to specialist teachers, and reduced school bus service.

"I think folks in the school system will feel some relief today," said Iker. "While we are appreciative that the government is making this move, it should never have happened in the first place. It's incumbent upon teachers, parent groups, and school trustees to keep reaching out to government MLAs to ensure they understand the depth of the crisis, and commit to taking more action."

BCTF incoming president, Glen Hansman, posted several messages on Twitter on Monday night linking to school districts' recent letters admonishing the province for pushing through the cuts over recent years.​

"We balanced our budget with difficulty even though we have had a small increase in students in the past year," wrote the Sunshine Coast school district in a letter to Bernier.

"This is due in large part to the requirement of the Ministry of Education that we send back administrative savings in the amount of $182,072."

The district's chair, Betty Baxter, goes on to outline $1,368,031 in administrative costs it says the province has downloaded to that district over the past 10 years. 

Earlier this month, the province came under fire for pushing through a mandatory multi-million-dollar technology upgrade without providing any additional funding for schools to pay for it.

The B.C. School Trustees Association says the Next Generation Network will cost as much as $24 million in total. 

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